One things for sure, the last 5 years have tested my resolve as a man. A man that prides himself on working hard, doing the right thing and knowing that in life you only get out what you put in.
4 1/2 years! Yes that's correct, 54 months of my life committed solely on obtaining a piece of metal no bigger than a crisp. That's all strangers see as you pass them in the street as you trot along moments before you spend your mornings tips on a coffee, or as you sprint past them in urgent need of a 5 star Tom tit in a Mayfair hotel. What they don't see, and fail to recognise is that inside there's a foundation of hard work, dedication and desire to be the best. Years of struggle and set backs that have, unknowingly, made us conditioned to battle through some of the most unforgiving terrain and come out the other side even stronger and more determined than ever. The knowledge doesn't just educate us in our particular field, making us masters of our trade, it also moulds us into focused, well rounded individuals. The knowledge has made us who we are today.
Life before Uber
A seasoned trade. You knew what parts of the year were most likely to be busy and which months were going to be the quietest, or kipper seasons as known within the trade. January and August undoubtedly the 2 slowest of the year. But what you could do was cover some mammoth shifts to get you through those quiet periods. Being a London cabbie gives you the opportunity to earn a decent living, but contrary to what outsiders think, you've always had to put the hours in to reach those profitable margins. One thing that was always considered was, having a Green badge meant as long as you didn't do anything silly, you would have a job for life.
5 years of hell
I honestly can't remember my first memory of learning about the emergence of Uber, it seemed to almost come out of the blue. I wasn't on social media and I wasn't really on talking terms with any other cabbies. I would come to work, graft, and then go home. Then the night work started drying up, people were no longer standing on the side of the road waving me down, instead they stood like zombies staring at their phones. Something bad was happening. I remember one particular shift where I went almost 3 hours without a job, driving around busy streets on a Friday night empty. My soul was being destroyed.
Prius after Prius alongside me, none of them empty. The work I had sacrificed so much for, taken away in the blink of an eye. The job suddenly didn't feel like a job for life, it felt more like a job that was ruining my life. I would go home after a 15 hour shift and lay on the sofa with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I never knew if I was just going through a bad patch and that work wasn't as bad as I thought. I had no cab drivers to compare with. That's when I found SaveTaxi on Facebook and joined. A group set up by wives and supporters of the cab trade to bring some unity and support to it's much needed workers. It was here that I realised we were in a fight to survive. Post after post from worried taxi drivers would fill the page. Although I had the urge to say what I initially thought; "we are f***ed!" I decided to take a different approach. Try and galvanise and support what the ladies of SaveTaxi were trying to achieve; justice!
It was clear that something wasn't right and that some dark forces were at work. When our mayor started taunting us I knew we were being slowly outcasted and demonised as some sort of out of date...... what's the word? Oh yes that's it, Luddite! An American tech firm who pays almost zero corporation tax in this country and who decided our trade was only worthy of a low paid workforce, was being supported, advertised and cheered on by the likes of Boris Johnson, George 'Gideon' Osborne and David Cameron. Talk about sucking the silicon sack!
Preparing for the final showdown
With law suits piling up against Uber, regulators denying license renewals and workers demanding employment rights, things are suddenly looking terribly unstable for the Goliath like giant from across the pond. London and its Taxi drivers and their supporters have refused to give in. They have picked themselves up time after time and stared those that doubted them straight in the eyes and said " I know what you are doing. I will not let you win"
The truth is slowly coming out. Every dirty trick is being fired back to counter, but the truth is; karma will find your ass in life, and when it does it's going to hurt bad, real bad. You get out what you put in, and you've put in a whole lot of hurt. Your time is coming. You may of falsely hypnotised the general public into thinking you are the future of the trade with your endless subsidised fares and your free ice cream, but even the ignorant need reminding sometimes that there's no smoke without fire. Uber are not, and never will be the future of this trade. They chose to do it their way, and their way seems to finally be catching up with them.
There's something sweet in the air at the moment. Lap it up and enjoy, because fellow cabbies, you deserve it.
I would like to say; from one cabbie to another, it's been a pleasure fighting with you, and you may not realise it yet, but we're all even stronger now than we were at the start of this mess.
It's not over yet, but the fat lady is just beginning to warm up her voicebox.
Strap in ladies and gentlemen, the last lap is gonna be one hell of a thrill!